An Unsatisfactory Ending

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An Unsatisfactory Ending

The controversial investigation into the illegal diversion of the National Security Planning Agency’s budget has been practically wrapped up. On Monday, as the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office indicted Kim Ki-sup, former senior official of the spy agency, who is in custody, it also arraigned Rep. Kang Sam-jae without detention on the allegation of violating the Law on Aggravated Punishment of Specific Crimes (loss of national treasury). In addition, the prosecution is set to indict without detention Lee Won-jong, former Blue House senior secretary for political affairs, and Kwon Young-hae, former head of the intelligence agency, with the conclusion that they tacitly approved funneling the agency’s budget. Such a conclusion is utterly disappointing. For a case alleging a diversion of the national budget amounting to over 100 billion won ($78 million), the outcome is too paltry. Where has the awe-inspiring spirit in the early days of the probe gone, when prosecutors vowed to delve into the case leaving no one in the sanctuary? How can they take away swords at the level of implicating Kang Sam-jae and Kim Ki-sup?

In the first place, it is questionable why the prosecution wants to wrap up the case so hurriedly. No one will believe that the two figures had enough powers to funnel the whopping budget. After a whiff of doubts, no progress has been made about the suspected involvement of former president Kim Young-sam and his son Hyun-chul. This bolsters the suspicion that the prosecution has investigated how the former ruling camp laundered political funds, not how it diverted the
national budget.

Also, attention should be paid to the fact that Rep. Kang has been indicted while the proposal to arrest him is pending in the National Assembly. Taking a suspect to court without investigating him is extremely unusual even if evidence has been secured through other witnesses. After the prosecution gravely defined the case as disturbing the national discipline, it omitted the process of investigating a key suspect, thus passing the responsibility of finding out the truth to the court.

How can the prosecution defend itself against the charge that its action amounts to an excessive political maneuver and the abandonment of its duties? The prosecution says that it is realistically difficult to summon Rep. Kang and that time is running to prosecute him on the charge of acquiring stolen goods, the preliminary allegation applied to him. These excuses are far from persuasive, though. For one thing, it is unseemly to apply the charge of acquiring stolen goods for the loss of more than 100 billion won in the national treasury. For another, if the prosecution gave up on subpoenaing due to the onus of Mr. Kang’s status as a serving lawmaker, it has left a bad precedent. The prosecution submitted a proposal to arrest Mr. Kang and exerted pressures on him by taking his confidant in a surprise arrest, but now it has quietly pulled back.

The prosecution emphasizes that it will continue to investigate. However, the question is whether it has the will. At this stage, it cannot avoid the criticism that it has launched the investigation to “stifle the opposition” with the leakage of a list made up of the politicians who accepted campaign funds from the spy agency or to divert public attention from the ruling party’s lending of its lawmakers to its coalition partner. Now we are more confused than ever as to whether the funds
in question came from the national budget. The prosecution needs to reflect on its actions, because once again its investigation had few results amid political pressures and tactical maneuvers.

by Cho Ki-suk

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